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Rivals tee up at Abu Dhabi Championship

Sergio Garcia and Padraig Harrington, the world’s top two players in the absence of the injured Tiger Woods, resume their rivalry at this week’s Abu Dhabi Championship.

Garcia may have risen to number two in the rankings but twice in the last 18 months he has been pipped to a major title by Harrington, at the 2007 British Open and at last year’s U.S. PGA Championship.

The Spaniard, though, dismissed suggestions of friction between the two Ryder Cup colleagues.

“Padraig and I get along fine, though we are not the closest of friends,” Garcia told reporters on Wednesday.

“I have guys I get along with better on tour, like Camilo Villegas and Luke Donald, but there’s nothing more to it than that.

“Like I’ve said before there are guys you connect with more than others.”

Garcia is leading the European Tour money list, now known as the Race to Dubai, after winning the Champions Tournament in Shanghai in November but said his game was still a work in progress.

“It’s the start of the year and I feel a little rusty,” said the 29-year-old. “I definitely don’t feel like my game is near where it should be but I’m working on it.

“Hopefully by tomorrow morning I can get going. I’m looking forward to getting in a good rhythm and getting some good emotions.”

Twice British Open champion Harrington said he was keen to start 2009 with victory in Abu Dhabi.

“I’ve set all sorts of goals, some that are very attainable and some that are a bit far out there, but any time I go to an event I really want to win,” said the world number three.

“I’m here to win and I like the course.”

Harrington said he would adopt a conservative approach at first.

“I don’t envisage coming out with all guns blazing on Thursday morning and firing at all the pins,” said the 37-year-old.

“I’ll work my way into the event and I’ll need a little bit of adjustment to get into it. My target is to shoot a steady score the first day and get better every day.”

Making his debut in Abu Dhabi is U.S. Masters champion Trevor Immelman.

The South African said he had struggled to find consistency since his victory at Augusta in April.

“The key for me is that I now know when I play my best golf it’s good enough to win the biggest tournaments,” said Immelman.

“My goal is to try to find a way to do it more regularly because I seem to play that type of golf maybe every year to 18 months. I need to try and find a way to do it maybe on three or four occasions a year.”

Also in this week’s field are holder Martin Kaymer of Germany and Ryder Cup duo Henrik Stenson and Paul Casey.


January 15, 2009

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